Sunday, July 5, 2015

Crystal Peak and Peak 10

Brian and Nick on Peak 10
My old climbing partner Brian was ready for a mini-cation to Colorado so we decided to plan a day in the mountains.  I have recently become interested in the 10 Mile Range near Breckenridge, and thought that Crystal Peak and Peak 10 would be a good choice for a climb.  These are two 13ers that can be approached from Crystal Basin by the Spruce Creek Trail Head.  We utilized the same trail head as my previous trip report up Mount Helen.  This time however we drove the additional 1.25 miles up to the upper 4WD trail head which intersects the Wheeler Trail.  The road was in pretty bad shape compared to a couple weeks ago, so I wouldn’t try heading up to the upper trail head unless you have a high clearance vehicle.
Bryan en route to Crystal Peak
We started up the trail just after 7am.  The Wheeler Trial starts about 50 yards past the gate.  We took the trail on the ascent, but came down the road on the descent.  There is a pretty bad creek crossing which took us quite some time to negotiate.  Finally we were able to toss a log across a narrow section and made it to the other side.  I would recommend taking your boots off for the crossing or just staying on the road and walking a little further around since there is a bridge.  After we crossed there was a short climb out of the drainage and we ended up in some backpacker’s campsite.  From there we just walked cross-country heading towards the peaks till hitting the main road that makes its way to Crystal Lake.  There was a lot of snow runoff so some sections of the road were pretty flooded over and crossing was bit challenging.  I was pretty good in my boots till the water made its way in from the top, and I think Brian went all the way in with his trail shoes a couple times.  Soon after that crossing we stopped and had to ring the water out of our socks.  I’m sure there are ways to avoid a lot of the water, we just didn’t take the time to scout it out too much.
Crystal Peak
Our last water crossing came when we needed to cross the outlet of Crystal Lake.  This was the most manageable of all as there were many rock islands to hop to as we crossed the 30 foot outlet of water.  After this crossing we were pretty much in the clear.  Brian got his shoes soaked in the marsh and had to squeeze the water out of his socks one more time.  After that we were good to go and were on our way towards Crystal Peak. 
We chose to follow the old road that heads to the Upper Crystal Lake.  The road is faint in places and narrows as you rise in elevation; it eventually becomes a single track trail.  This trial goes all the way to Upper Crystal Lake.  We spotted a side trail marked with a cairn that looked like it was heading to the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10.  This lead to a traverse across a boulder field, which went by pretty quickly.  Once at the saddle it is about a 500 foot climb to the summit of Crystal.  The clouds were starting to build, so we took a few minutes to refuel and monitor the weather.  I was satisfied with the weather and we started heading up the route to Crystal’s summit.
This was a solid class 2+ section, I left my poles at the saddle but Brian opted to keep his for the climb up.  I stayed on the rock as Brian hopped between the rock and the snow on the way up.  Within a half hour or less we were on the summit.  There were seven skiers getting ready to make there descent as we arrived.  I was jealous of their descent method, but I was thankful I didn’t have to carry all that equipment up this high.  Brian did very well for being a flatlander.  He lives at about 400 feet above sea level, so I definitely had the advantage today.  We took a few pictures then started making our way down to the saddle.  I was feeling pretty good heading down the rock, and for once my knees weren’t killing me.
Peak 10 East Ridge
At the saddle we checked the weather again and decided we were good to head up Peak 10.  From the saddle we only had to gain about 400 feet and the slope was much more mellow than the climb up Crystal.  This went pretty quick and I didn’t really have to stop on the ascent.  I chatted with another hiker on his way over to Crystal.  He was doing the same route we did but in reverse.  A few minutes later and I was on the summit.  There were about 10 others up there, mostly skiers that were heading down the north face into the Breck ski area.  A few minutes later Brian made it up and we were feeling pretty good that it was all downhill from here.  It there wasn’t the threat of thunderheads we were considering adding Peak 9 as well, but that wasn’t going to happen today.  After a few minutes we started making our way down the East Ridge.
The first few hundred vertical feet was on a snow covered ridge.  I think I can blame that snow on the sunburn my legs are dealing with today.  Our goal was to follow the ridge until it meets up with the Wheeler Trail.  There were a few steep snow fields that we avoided and a large boulder field we had to negotiate.  Once hitting the trail the going was fast, we were actually trotting for a good section of it.  Brian found a snow bank and made himself a snow angel.  He didn’t get any snow days living in California, so he was trying to make up for it.  I wanted to avoid the creek crossing, so we followed the road the rest of the way back to the trail head.
Today was a great day out.  I’m patiently waiting for Brian to move back to Colorado so we can continue checking mountains off our list.  I took some time checking out the East Ridge route of Father Dyer and it is looking like a great possibility for next weekend.  I hope everyone got the chance to enjoy the Freedom of the Hills over the Fourth of July weekend.  Cheers!
GPS Track
Date: 7/4/2015
TH Elevation:  10,960ft 
Crystal Peak: 13,822ft
Peak 10: 13,615ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,240ft
Distance: 8.07 miles
Moving Time: 5:15
Stopped Time: 1:40
Partners: Brian

Picture Link: Crystal Peak Album

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